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Old 12-06-2007, 11:30   #1
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Aging and Sailing

I was looking at the age poll and saw "3" had responded to 70 or over and I recalled a conversation I had with a gentleman in Campbell River on Vancouver Island, BC. This pleasant sailor was I would guess be around 75 and lived in Chicago. He was with a buddy of his who was 82 and the owner of a 45 + power boat heading to Desolation Sound. Since I had lived in Chicago, I struck up a conversation with him and he talked about their up coming voyage.

It was clear to him that he believed this would be the last time he and his friend would ever come out BC Coastal way; he felt age was catching up with him, and more importantly his buddy. He told me he used to own a sailboat in Chicago but gave it up when he couldn't get any crew together to go out with him. He asked me what I owned and I said, I guess with some apology in my voice (you have to see the yachts in Campbell River to understand my apologetic tone - if you own a 45 footer, you're obviously from the lower classes) that I sailed a 27 Catalina.

Interestingly he was very enthusiastic about my boat; he said if you are happy on it and it does all you want it to do, then keep it; don't move up. He said as he got older sails became more of a chore, even tacking and jibing was an issue for him. He said the larger the boat, the more crew you really needed on it which became an issue for an aging crowd. Even the heel of the boat for a much older guy could be influential in recruiting crew.

Gerontologist divided the "older" crowd into three categories: "young old," "middle old," and "frail old." When one reaches frail old, sailboating becomes an issue. Right now I am "young old" at 59; the "48" in my rsn48 is my birth year, but I know "frail old" awaits me as it does for most of us.

I would enjoy hearing others thoughts on aging and sailing.
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Old 12-06-2007, 11:57   #2
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I'm a '48 model, too, rsn . . .

. . . and I enjoyed reading your post. Hats off to the two intrepid sailors you encountered. It's just a guess on my part, but I would wager that the two gentlemen may "retire" from sailing, but stay close to yachting, probably opting for a power vessel.

Until the deal fell through for want of a clean survey, I was on the verge of buying a 35' sailing catamaran that I would be singlehanding. In the aftermath, I took a closer look at the "downside" of owning such a vessel and concluded that, while I felt up to the requirements of handling such a vessel by myself at 59, I doubted I'd find the experience quite so pleasant as I got older.

After thinking it through, I decided to look at small power craft in the 30'-34' range - specifically, the Nordic Tug 32 and the Camano 31, though there are other possibilities. Either one will serve nicely for coastal cruising singlehanded, and by being on the waterfront, I can crew on friends' sailboats when that is something I want to do.

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Old 12-06-2007, 12:07   #3
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A close friend and sailing mentor recently retired from live aboard status because he found that he was entering into the frail category last winter. Climbing onto and off of the boat in bad weather convinced hi it was time to swallow the anchor. It is heartbreaking to see the boat he just finished outfitting for the Caribbean sitting at the brokerage dock. I just quit my job and plan to spend some time sailing while I can. If there was any cruising advice that is universal it is "Go Now". In an odd twist on ages I'm a '59 and and that makes me 48.
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Old 12-06-2007, 12:28   #4
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I think that age is just one of the considerations, and not necessarily the most telling. BTW, I'm a '38 model :-)

I can still singlehand my 27K displacement 42' sloop with ease. Partly that's because I'm fit for my age. Partly it's attitude. Partly it's because the boat is outfitted with some labor-saving devices -- like an electric windlass and one electric winch for the roller-furling mainsail, and a roller-furling headsail. Partly, it's because the boat is in excellent repair and everything works. In large part, however, I believe it's because of experience.

It's also because of sailing area and rhythm. No problem single-handing on the Potomac or the Chesapeake -- just went on a 3-day solo shakedown cruise last week, with 2 days of strong winds. However, on long hops I much prefer to have crew...4 or 5 experienced persons....because the most dangerous thing is fatigue, and it's no secret that as you age your stamina and, to a degree, your strength fades faster than you'd care to admit. So when sailing long distances or on long offshore hops, I take a full crew.

Three years ago we were in Rockland, ME after a fine trip from Annapolis. I was in the cockpit musing about how nice it was to be sailing offshore at my age when a 40' sailboat from Massachusetts with three elder statesmen pulled into the dock beside me. I learned they had been coming Down East for many years, had just come from Massachusetts. All three were over 75, and one was over 80! This revelation humbled me a bit, and gave me something to shoot for :-)

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Old 12-06-2007, 14:34   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pura Vida
A close friend and sailing mentor recently retired from live aboard status because he found that he was entering into the frail category last winter. Climbing onto and off of the boat in bad weather convinced hi it was time to swallow the anchor. It is heartbreaking to see the boat he just finished outfitting for the Caribbean sitting at the brokerage dock. I just quit my job and plan to spend some time sailing while I can. If there was any cruising advice that is universal it is "Go Now". In an odd twist on ages I'm a '59 and and that makes me 48.
I believe (and hope) that boat life and the physical hardships involved actually help stave off the "frail old" stage through activity and forced exercise. Being in the "old young" category myself (birth year 1971), I can't be too sure, but I have never felt as spry as I do now since I was about 21 yrs old. It works to reverse the clock when you are in the "old young" stage, so I'd imagine it would work in your favor as you age. In fact, there was a 70+ yr old lady in the slip next to me in Long Island years back. She was the boat owner and had guys coming out to go sailing with her that were in the 60+ range as well. She would toss around water jugs and do just every physical thing you could imagine and do it with agility. I suspected the agility was a result of her being physically active her whole life and avidy sailing. She also had a good outlook which helps they say as well.

As to the "go now" theory... I used to agree but now would actually have to disagree. We tried that. It sucks. Don't go unless you are ready finacially. There is nothing more heart breaking than re-fitting a boat for someone else's use using 9 months of your life (full time) and $23K. If you don't have the funds to buy a boat outright and have a HUGE wad of cash saved away, I wouldn't go at all. It just won't come together, no matter how frugal you are, since boat payments and breakdowns will put a crimp in your plans. You can't go anywhere outside of the USA (if a US citizen) without spending out money. There is the boat, food, entry fees, high cost of groceries (Caribbean), the enevitable breakdowns, etc.. etc...

No matter how frugal you are, you need to be quite financially sound to cruise. Don't "go now." It sounds great to an eager armchair sailor, but once you're out here... it really stinks to have the boat, the wife and everything you ever need in life to cruise but not to be able to afford to actually go and do it. You'll end up in purgatory - somewhere between cruising and working full time - and that's a very torturous place to be.

Best to find the $$ before you go.

PS: Warning does not apply to trust fund babies, people who inherit large sums, or who have portfolios and real estate boom cash. Just for regular people who have no assets and are working for a living.
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Old 12-06-2007, 16:34   #6
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Sliding off topic, but Sean, I went in my 20's with no cash and worked my way around, but by 30 was sick of it . Came back to NZX to work, saying I wouldn't do it till could afford it without working everywhere I went. Left again just before 40, the first few years were fine but money slowly became an issue as the cost of cruising rapidly increased, so at 50 I'm back ashore working again.
You are right, it sucks if you can't afford it. Funny thing is by NZ standards I'm probably considered pretty comfortable, but you must own a boat and have an inflation adjusted income to support the sailing life, and that ain't so easy to do.
PS Living on a boat while tied to a dock working isn't cruising, it's just 3rd class accommodation.
The encouraging thing about this thread is it seems I've got another 25-30 years of sailing before I slip my cable.
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Old 12-06-2007, 18:53   #7
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I just turned 62 and have been looking for the right boat for about 2 years. Endless hours logged onto Yachtporn.com looking at one boat and then another. Last fall I thought I had found it, a 35' catamaran. The survey turned up to many issues and so it was back to the internet. Gradually I started to pin down the boat. Comfortable, but with hopefully a good turn of speed. A catamaran for stability as I grow older. Spaceous engine rooms because I don't fold up well any more. Ease of maintenance because I would rather sail than spend time in the boatyard. One boat seemed to show up meeting these criteria. I started looking at the Voyage 38.

Two or three were sold as I was making up my mind. I was basically looking at the east coast when all of a sudden a boat in Grenada appeared.
One thing followed another and I am again a boat owner, however, it is allready in the Carribean. After Hurricane Season I'M OFF.

The same thing is happening to others friends. One has a bad knee and bought a 40' trawler. My brother sold his C&C 33 in Vancouver and bought a Jeanneau 40 in Florida and just got back from the Bahamas.

If you are determined and love what you are doing it is amazing what you can do. My father raced a Kirby 30 until he was 79 while living with cancer for many years. What made this work was a dedicated crew who helped him, and the mutual respect that they had for each other. I still see some of them and hope to sail with them next year.

It will be an adventure. Will I enjoy living aboard for 30 weeks a year? The longest I have done before has been 7 weeks. How will my body hold up to the rigors of running a yacht. But I can hardly wait until November.
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Old 12-06-2007, 18:59   #8
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Originally Posted by dana-tenacity
Sliding off topic, but Sean, I went in my 20's with no cash and worked my way around, but by 30 was sick of it . Came back to NZX to work, saying I wouldn't do it till could afford it without working everywhere I went. Left again just before 40, the first few years were fine but money slowly became an issue as the cost of cruising rapidly increased, so at 50 I'm back ashore working again.
You are right, it sucks if you can't afford it. Funny thing is by NZ standards I'm probably considered pretty comfortable, but you must own a boat and have an inflation adjusted income to support the sailing life, and that ain't so easy to do.
PS Living on a boat while tied to a dock working isn't cruising, it's just 3rd class accommodation.
The encouraging thing about this thread is it seems I've got another 25-30 years of sailing before I slip my cable.
Wow... I'm impressed and humbled by your experience of being able to pull it off at such an early age. Amazing.

I hate to say it, but I might have to suggest that it was a different time and you are from NZ. These are different variables than what younger people in the States face at the current time.

Still... you are my idol for having pulled it off.
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Old 12-06-2007, 20:10   #9
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Wow, I'm an American's Idol!!!!!
One day when I'm bored I'll tell the story of how I arrived in Sydney broke and 18months later had a 32ft ocean going sailboat, and all the laws i broke and all the taxes i didn't pay to do it.
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Old 12-06-2007, 20:18   #10
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I hope this doesn't drag this off topic but a good question for discussion is "What is the easiest boat to handle as you get older."

We bought our boat 6 weeks ago from a fine gentleman in his 70's. his two boys had gone off to thier lives and he was sailing about 4 times a year. He didn't have the strength to haul lines so he had a couple of extra winches added including one on top of the cabin for the uphauls.

My plan is coming together nicely but I am still looking for "the boat." I don't categorize myself as young or old. Just fit or not fit and I agree with the thoughts above that the most important thing is to keep active and exercise those joints and muscles.

You can do a lot with automatic sails and furlers but I am guessing a simple sail plan, sloop or cutter, with furlers and electric aids. A big motor for when "It's just not worth hauling up the sails." Electric windlass, big boarding step with perhaps a walk through transom, not to big to make the docking chores easier.

Thoughts?
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Old 12-06-2007, 21:00   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rsn48
I was looking at the age poll and saw "3" had responded to 70 or over and I recalled a conversation I had with a gentleman in Campbell River on Vancouver Island, BC. This pleasant sailor was I would guess be around 75 and lived in Chicago. He was with a buddy of his who was 82 and the owner of a 45 + power boat heading to Desolation Sound. Since I had lived in Chicago, I struck up a conversation with him and he talked about their up coming voyage.

It was clear to him that he believed this would be the last time he and his friend would ever come out BC Coastal way; he felt age was catching up with him, and more importantly his buddy. He told me he used to own a sailboat in Chicago but gave it up when he couldn't get any crew together to go out with him. He asked me what I owned and I said, I guess with some apology in my voice (you have to see the yachts in Campbell River to understand my apologetic tone - if you own a 45 footer, you're obviously from the lower classes) that I sailed a 27 Catalina.

Interestingly he was very enthusiastic about my boat; he said if you are happy on it and it does all you want it to do, then keep it; don't move up. He said as he got older sails became more of a chore, even tacking and jibing was an issue for him. He said the larger the boat, the more crew you really needed on it which became an issue for an aging crowd. Even the heel of the boat for a much older guy could be influential in recruiting crew.

Gerontologist divided the "older" crowd into three categories: "young old," "middle old," and "frail old." When one reaches frail old, sailboating becomes an issue. Right now I am "young old" at 59; the "48" in my rsn48 is my birth year, but I know "frail old" awaits me as it does for most of us.

I would enjoy hearing others thoughts on aging and sailing.
Great post . Vancouver Island is full of such sailors I bump into them constantly and I know more than a few personally.I love the comment on moving up.If you love it... keep it.
Its true.
If your boat does what you want it to why go anywhere else?
I couldnt agree more.
Some guys will tell your boat is huge and other will tell you its not big enough ....but if it works for you....have at it.

I love bumping into people in remote little bays in the islands ...especially the old guys ...and listen to em brag about their boats.Every boat and every capt , tells a tale .
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Old 12-06-2007, 21:12   #12
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Interesting subject!
I turned 62 a little while ago, and the wife and I are off full time cruising shortly, and we're just not accepting any impending fraility accompanying our advancing years. Three months ago we went for six weeks tramping and kayaking through some pretty rugged country, living in a tent that was so small you had to go outside to put your pants on. Before we go off cruising, we're going to Europe for two months to bicycle/tent from Amsterdam to Rome, and are not expecting any problems - O.K, the Alps will be a bit tough... The point is, this is nothing special for us - we can do this sort of thing because we've always done this sort of thing. So if you want to keep sailing into your dotage then work towards it - keep slim and fit, exercise, walk or cycle and don't ride - that'll save you money as well, push your boundaries, work towards the goal of being able to do whatever you want to do instead of being limited by what you're physically able to do. etc. etc. Of course there are events, illnesses etc that are outside of our control, but there are also an awful lot of things that we can control. So work towards a fit and active old age and at all costs, 'don't give up the ship!'
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Old 12-06-2007, 21:42   #13
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loose the outboard and get a good rowing dinghy, problem solved.
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Old 13-06-2007, 00:55   #14
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Boy-O-boy,I should have 10yrs sailing experience by the time I'm 59,class of 59.

And to think at 48,I was starting a bit on the late side.Mudnut.
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Old 13-06-2007, 13:45   #15
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Aging and Sailing - changes

I am 59, birthed late in the class of '47. I have been boating literally all my life, first on sailboats (over 30 years) and now via power. I love sailboats but in this part of the world (Florida, the Keys, Bahamas) sailboats are for daysailing - you go out, find the wind and have a good time. For passagemaking hereabouts, sailboats are a pain in the tookus. I can't tell you now many times I have sailed to the Keys or the Bahamas with either no wind at all or the wind on our nose. On one long and tedious trip I realized that I was motoring far more than I was sailing and I came to understand that PASSAGEMAKING sailors do indeed motor most of the time around here.

I happened to hitch a ride one time with a friend on his trawler and, God please forgive me, I loved it. We went in a straight line, the boat stayed level, it had lots more room than my 41' sailboat, the cabins were full of light from the sunshine streaming through the large windows and there was almost no work to do while were were steaming along - no sails to tend, no trimming to ponder, no waiting for bridges to open. I felt like I was betraying my sailing heritage but I could not get past the smile on my face when I was on that trawler.

Fast forward, I went over to the dark side. I bought a single engine, 38' trawler. But I kept my sailboat for three more years, sure that I would come to hate either myself or my trawler for giving up the sailing. Eventually I had to admit that near-shore passagemaking and coasting were a lot easier on the trawler than on my ketch. So I put the sailboat on the market and she was gone from my life.

I have to admit here that I still have pangs of lust when I see a beautiful sailboat catching just the right breeze out on the Gulf of Mexico. But then I remember all those times when all I could do was motorsail when I wanted to actually go somewhere and I am happy with my decision.

As an aside, last week I spoke with a local sailor who has a 45' Columbia sloop. He had just returned from a trip which totalled about 1000 miles. After we'd had a few beers together I asked him to be honest with me and tell me how much time he spent under power while he was underway. Chagrinned, he admitted that the iron genny was lit up almost 90% of the time. But of course, he still thinks I am a traitor to sailors everywhere for owning a stinkpot.

Getting back to my story, I was cruising in the Florida Keys several years ago on my 38' trawler when I stopped and anchored at a well known harbor. This place has a great watering hole that also has a large bulletin board located between the bar and the men's bathroom (great, strategic location). As I passed by I could not help but notice a For Sale sign advertising a well known brand of 50' motor yacht for sale at a fire sale price. As I was in the loo staring at the wall I kept thinking to myself that if I was at all smart then I would never again look at that ad for the 50 footer and I would walk right past it and back to my beautiful woman who was waiting for my return at the bar. (The Keys are desperately short of women and full of desperately horny men, so you can't leave your lady alone at the bar for too long or when you return she might not be there.)

Thirty days later I owned that 50 footer and, of course, the 38' trawler.

I fell in love with the 50 footer and rationalized that for the two of us cruising together this boat would be ideal - lots more room, privacy for us both whenever we needed it, lots more speed for outrunning squalls, waterspouts and the occasional pirate-wannabe. This was to be my forever boat, I was convinced.

So I put the 38' trawler on the market and sometime later I was down to just one boat. It felt wonderful. (I know, I know - it is stupid to ever own two boats. I never said I was mensa material.)

Fast forward several more years and now the woman is long gone and the 50 footer is way too much boat for me to handle by myself. Plus, it has very large and very thirsty diesel engines. When I bought her the price of diesel was under $1.00 a gallon, now it is well north of $3.00 a gallon.

So now the plan is to make the 50 footer shine with paint and polish and TLC and to put her on the market. When she sells I will look at buying a much smaller single engine trawler that I can manage alone, probably under 36 feet in length.

I am not going back to sail, although I still love sailboats and still lust for them when I see one in full sail on the horizon. As I have aged I have had to understand that smaller is better and that motoring along in a trawler is, for me, the way to go. The most important thing is to just own a boat and to get out on the water as much as I possibly can because when I am on the water that tuning fork that I have inside me, the one we all have inside us, chimes a perfect note and I am content and one with nature.

Short of the long, that is how I plan to spend the days that I have left - on the water in a boat that I can handle, not dependent on any crew or rigging or sails or the wind being from the right direction. I'll be the one quietly moving along the Florida Gulf coast, heading for the Keys and the Bahamas. Hail me if you see me, I'll always have an extra Heiniken or two to share with you. We can sit on the deck in a peaceful anchorage and swap lies and marvel at the wonder that is boating and being on the water,

Your mileage may vary. Michael.
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